Everyone always seems so dashingly normal.

     All of you.

     I walk past you in the street.

     I drive past you on the road.

     I order my tea from you in a semi-posh sounding cafe.

     I sit next to you at church.

     And you, yes, even you seem normal.

     And then, we become friends.

     We talk after a lunch, or before a lunch.

     And some of your crazy starts to seep out.

     But I just laugh. To make us both feel comfortable.

     But deep down you know we are both thinking. What the hell is happening?

     I pray for grace. Grace to not stare at you like a homeless person wanting answers. Like, "Where's my money? And my life? And how did we get here?"

     Were we ever really normal??

     Now is probably not a good time to remind you that I've been a youth pastor for a little over 7 years. Especially since this post is more PG-13 than most of my other writings. But nevertheless, I wanted to be real and frank with you.

     I've had to wrestle with the hard truth, that often, I would become just a blip of a memory in the lives of the kids that I mentored, prayed for, cried over, and watched grow into young adults these past 7 years.

     Grappling with the fact that I might not see any real change and growth in an immediate time span, but rather, I might have to wait years and years to see the seeds of what I planted grow in these young hearts. Or the stark possibility that they may never grow and reach their true potential ever. This possible reality being the most Heartbreaking.

     I knew all of this was on the table 7 years ago. But when we do things out of love, logic doesn't always figure in properly. And I didn't step into my role as a youth pastor from a logical standpoint, but rather out of an opportunity to love--the agape way--the sacrificial way. A way in which getting something back of equal value in the relationship, was never going to be a guarantee.

     Because you see, spending time with me for a little over an hour on a Sunday, wasn't going to be enough to counter the dysfunction that was going on in their respective homes.

     And let's just call a spade a spade here.

     These kids were dealing with some real-deal-Holyfield dysfunction.

     Suicidal parents, life-threatening illnesses, death of parents, sibling abuse,  emotional abuse, sexual abuse, drug addiction, sex addiction, crippling obesity, paralyzing depression, devastating fear...

     And add on top of all that: PUBERTY.

     For these teens, Sunday morning was simply respite.

     Enough for someone to catch their breath.

     But not to necessarily change.

     Not just yet.

     And as we wrestled their demons together, I wondered how my efforts fared against the storm raging in their personal homes. The places where they sleep, drink, and eat. Where life is really being lived.

     And the verdict is now out.

     The places we call home truly do shape us the most--even if we are trying to run away from a negative stigma of home.

     Our beginnings in this life do set a course of sorts....what we love, what we hate, what we cling to...

     I have seen God do the miraculous. Really, I have.

     Some crazy sci-fi miraculous. Blind eyes that begin to see. Cancer disappearing. This has become my normal.

     But the miracle that truly floors me every time is that of a CHANGED life.

     A life that is so incredibly impacted and beautifully wrecked by love, that all hindrances of the past are but ashes.

     Old friends barely recognize you, because that's the kind of change that's happened in your life, your heart, and your internal and external world.

     But some people are just not tired enough of their dysfunction.

     Those that I thought had learned their lessons, and have chosen to grow and change out of a toxic lifestyle, are now showing their true struggle in this hour. Their dysfunction is now pushing through the poorly built facade they created. The facade that was much like a straw roof on a brick house. All in an attempt for them to not have to "do the work" -- to face their truth, their current ordeal and mindset and furthermore, make new and better choices...over the playing field of time.

     But these things require work.

And not everyone is up for the tedious discipline that change demands of us.

     So here's the thing.

     If you are choosing to lie (whether out of pride, fear laziness, or arrogance) and/or to remain dysfunctional. I give you that space, wholeheartedly to make that choice. Yes. That is a choice.

     But here's the thing, I just can't carry you with me up the mountain.

     The intimate reserves of my life, dreams, and time will now get shifted towards those folks also pursuing health and breaking the patterns of dysfunction in their own lives.

     Because guess what?

     I'm somewhat dysfunctional, too.

     And I know that misery loves company, and the temptation to stay dysfunctional is all too great, even for me.

     So how does one break out of dysfunction?

     Pursue and stay in emotional health for yourself first.

     Make that a priority.

     And no, that is not selfish.

     It's like what they tell you on airplanes...put the mask on yourself first, before assisting someone else--even a small child...

     Can I tell you a secret?

     The big draw for me becoming a youth pastor, is because God baited me with the promise of healing my own heart through loving these wild, broken, tender, and adventurous teenagers. 

     It all came with doing the work on the ground level, but in the context of a youth group. From the non-glamorous and often non-romantic aspects of sitting in meetings, planning, coordinating, and attending small teen prayer and worship nights, youth retreats, service projects, and driving teenagers all over southern California for the last 7 years, while working full time in TV production.

     It was my road out of my own deep dysfunction and pain.

     But what's your road?

     In my constant pursuit to know God more, to love people wholeheartedly and well, it has become imperative that my core group of friends be in a place of health.

     Now I didn't say perfect.

     And we are all free to wallow every now and again.

     But that's not what I'm talking about.

     I'm talking about folks that get you, and that you get as well.

     People that you are choosing of whom are choosing you right back. Iron sharpening iron. Those bringing out the best in you, and you bringing out the best in them.

     As you continue to pursue health, in all its forms in your life (spiritually, emotionally, physically), you'll need to get around and glean from other spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy people.

     (Which, by the way, may not be in your current friend group....)

      But be warned, you'll be challenged to grow and to change.

     And if you're not really ready to change, conflict will arise--mostly within your own life.

     So do yourself the honor of not lying to yourself.

     If you need help, admit it.

     If you're not really ready to change. Admit it. And explore the reasons why...

     And if you're scared to change. Admit it. And confide in someone who will breathe life into your dreams and kill your doubts.

     Two people that have had a far-reaching influence in my emotional health are Bruce and Jean Hammond.

     They are hands down one of my favorite married couples of all time. And simply two of my favorite people on the planet.

     I met them years ago, when I had my first intense counseling session with them.

     4 hours later, they had discovered and exposed a deep-seated area of dysfunction in my own heart, and in that session, they became God's vessels of profound healing.

     I've never had an experience quite like that ever or since.

     Their ministry is quite unique.

     Here's a description of what they do, taken from their website, "Destiny Manifest":

Destiny Manifest is the ministry of Bruce and Jean Hammond who are servants of Jesus Christ with a unique ability to bring understanding, clarity, and insight. 
Through a combination of practical knowledge and the leading of the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:6 and 1 Corinthians 12:8) we bring freedom to people who often have felt like there is nowhere else to turn for answers. As a believer in Christ, everyone should experience the joy of knowing truth in the innermost being (Psalm 51:6). The inner life often takes a back seat as people struggle to make their way through life and in effect ignore the deep places of hurt or lack of emotional foundation in their souls. These hurts, or areas of lack, eventually end up affecting their relationships, work life, and destiny.

Jesus said He came to “heal the broken hearted” (Luke 4:18-NASB). The apostle John takes it a step further: “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 1:2 -NASB).

We believe that as a person comes to prosper in their soul and understands truth in their innermost being, they will not only enjoy a healthy emotional life, but their relationships, work life, and fulfillment will be greatly enhanced. Destiny will manifest.

For further information or to schedule appointment, Please Click Here to Email Destiny Manifest or call 615-217-1763

     Although Bruce and Jean are based in Tennessee, they travel quite frequently all over, and also do Skype sessions.

     So if you're resolute or tired of your current lifestyle of dysfunction, or you've just been feeling stagnant in ways that you just can't put your finger on---maybe it's time to do something crazy and intentional. Something as crazy as calling them or emailing them....

     Tell them I sent you. xo

     They won't think you're crazy. I promise.

     In fact, they'll simply think you're lovable and brave.

     Our dysfunctional journeys don't have to be solo. Thank God we don't have to be alone in all of this--left to our own devices.

     Thank goodness, a road has been walked out before us.

     A road marked with tears and blood, but also with victory and love.

     A road beckoning us beyond our dysfunction and the mistreatment done to us through our past.

     The road ahead is going somewhere--somewhere we've always, sincerely longed to go...

Wisdom's Knocking:

“Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper 

and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” 

-- 3 John 1:2 (NASB)